Macquarie University
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Samuel Marsden, blinkered visionary: a re-examination of his character and circumstances through the study of his sermons

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posted on 2022-03-28, 11:16 authored by David Pettett
Many people have written about the Rev Samuel Marsden, from old time hagiographers to modern day pottery experts and all those in between. There are those who, in writing any history of colonial New South Wales, have blindly accepted a negative legend developed by Marsden’s opponents. There are those who have written hagiography and those who have attempted a more balanced assessment. And yet there remains a gaping hole in the literature. None of Marsden’s opponents and none of his friends have had any significant interaction with the one activity Marsden himself declared to be his primary focus. Despite a large body of Marsden’s sermons available to us, there has been a surprising lack of study of and interaction with them. Through an examination of all these known sermons of Marsden this dissertation discusses what Marsden said in his own preaching about many of the controversial issues he faced. This discussion reveals some of the complexities of Marsden’s character. In various collections there are 135 sermons in all. There are 98 in the Moore College collection, 25 in the Family Collection and the remainder scattered in ones and twos in various libraries and archives in Australia and New Zealand. Polarisations that have led individuals to be avid supporters or decided enemies of Marsden have been far too simplistic. To some extent these faults may have been redressed if there had been more interaction with Marsden’s preaching. Where some scholars have made attempts at a more balanced study of Marsden even they have fallen at critical points and failed to understand him because they also have not interacted with his preaching. The things Marsden has said in his sermons give a deeper understanding of his personality and motivations than has previously been available to us. A study of his sermons alerts us to arguably the greatest influences on him, remedying some mistakes made by previous biographers. A study of his sermons opens to us a better understanding of his character and circumstances, allowing a more balanced understanding of the man so that we are not polarised to see him just as the ‘Flogging Parson’ or as the ‘Apostle to the Māori’. His preaching shows that he is both of these and much in between.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter One. The Rev. Samuel Marsden’s sermons : the physical nature of his sermons held in the Library of Moore Theological College Sydney -- Chapter Two. Marsden's debt to Simeon -- Chapter Three. The sermons : background, morphology, themes and comparisons -- Chapter Four. What Marsden's sermons reveal about the local context -- Chapter Five. The New Zealand mission -- Chapter Six. Marsden and Macquarie : a deteriorating relationship highlighted by the sermon following the death of Ellis Bent.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 286-299

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stuart Piggin


Copyright David Pettett 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




New South Wales


1 online resource (299 pages)

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